Sunday, November 02, 2008

Resistance is not to awaken consciousness

Interesting dialog between Foucault and Deleuze:

FOUCAULT: The intellectual’s role is no longer to place himself “somewhat ahead and to the side” in order to express the stifled truth of the collectivity; rather, it is to struggle against the forms of power that transform him into its object and instrument in the sphere of “knowledge,” “truth,” “consciousness,” and “discourse. “

In this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. But it is local and regional, as you said, and not totalising. This is a struggle against power, a struggle aimed at revealing and undermining power where it is most invisible and insidious. It is not to “awaken consciousness” that we struggle (the masses have been aware for some time that consciousness is a form of knowledge; and consciousness as the basis of subjectivity is a prerogative of the bourgeoisie), but to sap power, to take power; it is an activity conducted alongside those who struggle for power, and not their illumination from a safe distance. A “theory ” is the regional system of this struggle.

DELEUZE: Precisely. A theory is exactly like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself (who then ceases to be a theoretician), then the theory is worthless or the moment is inappropriate.

Foucault blog
The whole conversation
“Intellectuals and Power” a 1972 conversation between Foucault and Deleuze. It was previously published in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice (ed. Donald Bouchard, 1977), and in Foucault Live ( ed. Sylvere Lotringer, 1996).


Anonymous said...

Interesting, in light of your idea of power as a gift. But the "useful" aspect troubles me. And I'm not sure that by speaking of the masses, Foucault isn't engaging in some abstraction himself. Are the intellectuals deciding here the appropriate gestalt for the masses?

Per Herngren said...

To speak of the masses as an entity, is a mistake, I think, by Foucault in this conversation with Deleuze. In his texts he usually tries to avoid representative language.

It would be interesting to hear your view on this two texts:
Against massmovement by Emma Goldman
and Anti-mass.
I have published them here:

Anonymous said...

I can see these require careful reading and some time to give them their due. But it is wierd isn't it, how right and left accuse each other of similar things, like 2 sides of a crazy mirror?